Studying Reefs Too Deep for SCUBA, Too Shallow for Subs

Written by on July 20, 2015 in Fish, Marine Life

Researchers from the Smithsonian Institution recently discovered a new goby fish that is unlike any of its relatives. It was found during the institution’s Deep Reef Observation Program (DROP) in the southern Caribbean.

Coryphopterus curasub. Image credit: Carole Baldwin and Ross Robertson, Smithsonian Institution, CC-BY 4.0.

Coryphopterus curasub. Image credit: Carole Baldwin and Ross Robertson, Smithsonian Institution, CC-BY 4.0.

In addition to differing in size and color, the new goby also lives in a very different habitat: deep water. It was found between 70 and 80 meters below the surface with the help of the Curasub submersible that DROP used.

“This is the fourth new deep-reef fish species described in two years from Curasub diving off Curacao,” Dr. Carole Baldwin explained in a news release. “Many more new deep-reef fish species have already been discovered and await description, and even more await discovery.”

Caribbean coral reefs are well studied down to the depths accessible by conventional scuba gear, but below that much is still unknown. The Curasub can reach depths of 300 meters, which is allowing scientists to study the lesser known parts of Caribbean reefs.

“Deep reefs are diverse ecosystems in tropical seas that science has largely missed,” Baldwin explained. “Too deep to access using SCUBA gear and too shallow to be of much interest to deep-diving submersibles capable of descending thousands of meters.”

DROP is helping researchers learn more about the upper and lower limits of many Caribbean species. This information could be useful as researchers attempt to predict how fish with react to warming oceans. If the surface waters get too warm, will fish be able to just swim a little deeper to find cooler water? We don’t know yet.

“By thoroughly investigating reef ecosystems that lie just below shallow coral reefs, describing new species, documenting depth ranges of new and known species, we are providing the baseline information necessary to detect changes in the future,” Baldwin said.

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Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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